Hellping

[86 V3] Chapter 7 – If You Die, Make it Count

“──Activate Flywheel 1 and 2, no abnormalities detected on the Imaginary Temporary Substation.”

“Begin cooldown of Catapult Rail. Transfering cooling unit, 23% and rising.──”

“Release canopy. Begin launch of the Catapult Rail.”

Vroom, a heavy noise echoed high and far. Shinn, who was snoozing away inside the cockpit of the “Undertaker”, lifted his head up.

The three-sided optical screens were synchronized to the external camera of the mother unit, and the hatch of the catapult hidden underground was slowly exposed.

Th rectangular sky as seen from the bottom of the culvert had the unique dark blue of twilight. The sun yet to be exposed was shining in from the other end of the horizon, the night was fading away, forming a unique, clear azure sky. The autumn stars of unknown names were giving off a faint glow, as they faded.

The catapult slide was extended into the dawn of the sky, like a challenge to the Heavens, and with the metal rumbling through the night air, it was attached together.

“First to last Joint locks have been attached. “Nachzehrer”, launch preparations completed.”

It was a month ago when the operation to invade the “Legion” area was decided on, and it was a week after that when that thing was shown.

“──People have been calling it the shutter that can’t be opened.”

They were at the shutters deep inside the hangar of the 1028th Experimental Hangar of the Division Headquarters, and as Grethe had said, nobody had been seen opening it before.

Beyond the thick anti-blast shutters was a slope more than 100m wide, and Grethe was standing before the elevator panel, watching it descend into the darkness. The abnormally large elevator remained spacious even with the 15 Processors, the maintenance crew, the control team and the research members.

“This hangar is used to store the experimental airplanes for the Empire. After the war began, the military was forced to abandon the entire base. Rollout and test flights were done for these experimental aircrafts, and all that awaits is their mass production.”

“I guess these things are placed down in this underground facility because they’re classified, but why are the experiments for the test crafts so close to the border?”

“Unlike the specs of the fighting jets or the bombers that needed to be classified, the military demands of that baby is that it’s ‘invisible’. The test flight area needs to be a wide, empty area, and there’s no such place other than the Wolfsland here. The hangar being underground is to prevent air raid, and the underground is more conducive to maintenance and building related facilities. Thanks to that, the Tausendfüssler never got to take them back.”

Other than the Ameise, the “Legion” sensors were extremely weak. It would be one thing if it had been a field dress or a fighting unit, but they probably never discovered the prototypes hidden deep behind the anti-blast shutters and the partitions.

“Related facilities?”

“Basically, runways, or catapults attached to them…they’ll do as much as the military demands them to do. If we add too much weight, an electromagnetic catapult will be needed to get them flying.”

The elevator rumbled to a stop.

In the dark space, Grethe led them down the stairs in a familiar manner, the boots echoing far away. It was a large space in terms of length, width and height. All the lights went on in unison, and the white LED immediately stung in their eyes.

With her back facing that thing, Grethe turned around..

The Processors, and the maintenance crew seeing it for the first time, gasped in unison.

For a moment, nobody could comprehend the entire appearance of that thing.

That thing was that massive.

It was truly almost a hundred meters wide, larger than the C-5 “Fraserburgh”. The dark grey frame had the flat structure of a stealth jet, resembling a large boomerang shaped aircraft that was reminiscent of a flying dragon with its wings spread wide.

“This is the prototype Ground Effect Landcraft, the XC-1 “Nachzehrer”.”

The unfamiliar name of the machine might have been derived from an ancient legend originating from the Southeast region of the Federation.

The name of a vampire who had revived from the grave, dragged its shadow across the graveyard, and slammed the Church bell.

For a military craft that was supposed to navigate the skies, it really was an unbefitting name.

Grethe continued on, explaining the two points of doubts.

“It’s a weirdly shaped flying object that gains liftoff by gliding near the ground. The navigation speed and loading capacity is the same as an aircraft, and it glides lower than any cruise missile, so neither a radar nor anti-air missiles are going to be able to hit it easily…originally, it was built to provide mass freight transportation down the designated flight paths on the Wolfsland. The capacity is 250 tonnes, but if all the space is used up, 300 tonnes is possible. It can load four ”Vanargand” squads at once.”

Saying that, Grethe showed a savage smirk.

“It’s possible to load all 15 “Reginleifs”…it’s better than a transport heli. It’s a safer option to send you guys down to where the ”Morpho” is.”

It had a fast cruise speed, could fly at low altitude beneath the radar range, and was quiet compared to the noise of a helicopter. Truly, the risk was extremely lowered.

But even so.

Hearing that, Seo raised an eyebrow.

“So, you’re saying it’s fine to fly this thing above ground? A few meters above ground would mean that it’s low enough to hit a building or a house, right?”

There were other risks.

“It’s the ”Legion” controlled area, but this time, we’re fighting in ex-Empire territory. Unlike humans, the “Legion” won’t be building houses or streets, so the landscape probably won’t change much even though it’s their area now.”

As land weapons, there was no war to be fought if they were immobilized just because of a drizzle.

“The frontlines won’t have too many Weisels or Atomarias near the frontlines, and besides, Lieutenant Nouzen can pinpoint their locations. We just need to evade them while flying through.”

“…I can pinpoint them, but I can’t figure out the unit type.”

“More than enough. In other words, we just need to fly through areas without “Legion”.”

They would fly in through low altitude, and would not be intercepted easily, but if there was any “Legion” unit in the way, they would be shot down. At several meters above ground, even a tank cannon incapable of firing upwards could shoot it down easily.

“Yeah, and we need a catapult back, so what about the return trip? It can’t fly back, right?”

“The initial operation for Nordlicht Squadron was to have the main forces retrieve it. In that case, we’ll just have to move this thing back using backup “Reginleifs”. It’s better than waiting for a transport heli.”

Upon hearing that, the old mechanic chief frowned.

“Missy, I hope this isn’t what I’m thinking, but who’s the pilot?”

Grethe spread her arms wide in a whimsical manner.

“Me.”

“──I don’t think you need to come along, Colonel.”

Upon hearing Shinn’s flat tone, Grethe in turn sounded elated as she sat on the pilot seat of the launching ”Nachzehrer”.

“Who else other than me can fly this baby? Most of the other pilots of the old air force are KIA, and I’m the only one with experience in test piloting this ”Nachzehrer”…good thing my company had a flight simulator lying somewhere.”

The ominous mutter left a few groaning away, but Grethe remained nonchalant, and Shinn did not mind it.

“Speaking of which, you used to be pilot of the air force, Lieutenant Colonel.”

“…It certainly sounds like you have just remembered about it, Lieutenant.“

In fact, Shinn did forget about it as he was not interested.

“In that case, I suppose you have forgotten about this. I am still opposed to sending you kids onto the battlefield…maybe fighting till the very end is a form of pride for you Eighty-Sixers, some form of self-identity, but I can’t back down on this. If we’re fighting, I’m fighting alongside you guys, and making sure that you guys can fight until the very end. That is my responsibility.”

“…”

“You arrived in this country, and while it’s some distance from your ideal homeland, there’s one thing that we want you to remember. In this country, nobody wants you to die in battle; we don’t want you to die. This goes for me, the Division Chief, and everyone in the squad…and this gentleman.”

“──It has been a while, hasn’t it? How are all of you doing?”

A calm, surprising voice left Shinn blinking. It was not a voice through the Para-RAID, but the communicator outside the ”Nachzehrer”.

“What are you doing here, Ernst?”

“No, you see, I am the Commander-in-Chief of the Federation. Since this is a crisis involving the survival of its people and borders, along with the neighboring countries, I am here to supervise. Besides, you all are the crux to this operation. Yes.”

Ernst sighed, and spoke in the tone of a man who had been leading the country for 10 years.

“The future of the Federation, the surrounding countries, and humanity itself shall depend on your performance, Nordlicht Squadron. Do destroy the “Morpho”…I expect results.”

“Understood.”

“And also…one more thing. This mission is of utmost priority.”

Shinn glanced forward, and Ernst seemed to be nodding earnestly.

“Come back alive. All of you.”

It sounded strange.

The voice sounded pretentious.

It seemed he was saying it for himself, rather than for them.

“…We’ll do our best.”

“No, that won’t do. Make sure all of you come back alive.”

The awkwardness lingered.

But the temporary president and registered stepfather of theirs spoke with a different, extremely sincere tone,

“Are you not going to keep fighting? In this Federation, fighting doesn’t mean dying in battle, but living until the battle ends. Thus, make sure all of you come back alive…every one of you.”

 

 

“Yes. Make sure all of you come back alive.”

Ernst hung up the intercom, and muttered to himself. He was at the Divisional Headquarters of the Western Army, seated at the commander seat.

At this point, he had removed the mass produced suit that had become his trademark as the temporary President, and was wearing the steel colored army uniform of the Federation.

It was this Western frontline where he first encountered them, albeit a different location.

He had come to the frontlines to supervise the reports, and learned that some youths from a foreign land were saved from a headhunter “Dinosauria”.

He pitied them.

He had hoped that he could give them happiness in place of the child that he could not have.

But more importantly,

Suddenly, a cold, empty smile appeared in the charcoal eyes of the Federation president.

This was a country unable to save damaged children. This was a country children could not be happy with.

A world that sends children to their deaths for its own benefits is not something she believed in. Humanity should have its own ideals──.

Ernst let out a long sigh.

He let out a long, flaming sigh, like a fire dragon tired of everything in this world.
It was as though he wanted to burn everything in this world.

“If not, I will destroy this world.”

The countdown on the main screen of the command room was down to the last five minutes before the operation began.

Ernst glanced aside at the Chief of Staff seated lower than him, and nodded slightly.

Anno Astrum year 2149, October 9th. BMNT1.

The temporary president was seated on the commander seat, and the Lieutenant General was on the vice commander seat. Upon seeing them nod, the Chief of Staff spoke up. He was dressed in the steel colored uniform with the cap of the Federation military, his hands on the hilt of the sword stabbing at the ground, a thin saber in a strap and a sheath instead of a commanding baton.

“──All fighters, take note.”

The voice of the Chief of Staff echoed through all forces of the Western front, where wireless communications were strictly forbidden.

“Henceforth, all forces of the Western amy shall advance to the “Legion” controlled area.”

Every single person remained extremely tense as they heard that aloof voice with bated breaths.

The objectives of the operation, emphasis and the duties of each battalion had been explained before sortie, and at this point, there was no need to repeat it again.

The objective of the Western forces, the United Kingdom forces and the Wald Alliance forces was to suppress and retake the corridor..

And the special forces was to act as vanguard, slipping behind enemy lines to destroy the “Morpho”..

It was basically an operation against the full force of the “Legion” army. They were not allowed to retreat or fail.

“This is the biggest battle for humanity, involving not only the fate of our Geade Federation, or our allied United Kingdom of Roa Graecia and Wald Alliance, this will affect the fates of the neighboring friendly countries whose voices may not reach us. All of you are sturdy shields protecting our compatriots, and sharpened swords opening the key to humanity’s future. The God of War cares not for the slaves, but blesses the warriors. Under the flag of the twin-headed hawk, advance with the mentality that you may die.”

 

“Attention!”

10km east of the frontlines, the artillery forces had lined up the muzzles of their guns in a single file.

The 155mm towed howitzers resembled spears piercing the heavens. The 155mm self-propelled guns had their cannons mounted on carts. The old 105mm howitzers and the few 203mm howitzers made before cancellation of production were lined across there. The MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) had 40 loaded container magazines pointed towards the dark skies on the West.

“Our mission is to cover for our friendlies! While our friendlies advance and grovel in mud, it is our job to blow up those raggedly ass scrap metals into smithereens!”

The banter was referring to the armored infantries and field dresses who could not lift their heads as they would be overwhelmed by enemy firepower, and had to fight through mud baths and bloodbaths. The bombardiers were forcing smiles, their faces completely stiffened.

The artillery commander looked around at everyone. Beneath the military cap was long black hair, and the girl with black framed glasses had half her face covered.

“For our comrades on the frontlines, for the warriors that will advance further, don’t you dare stop firing! I don’t care if the missiles blow up in the air or an angel flies through the sky, keep firing! ──All hands, prepare to fire at will!”

 

And on the frontlines, at the barracks of the armored corps.

“──Once the initial bombardment ends, it’s our turn to sortie! Don’t get stagefright now! Any of you chads who ain’t following, read out what you wrote to your honeys to everyone! Those virgins who have no honeys waiting, read out what you would tell your mamas!”

The gruff voice of the armored corps echoed out through the speakers, and the “Vanargands” on standby slowly got up. The engines of the infantry vehicles ferrying the armored infantries started to rumble.

The power packs screeched shrilly as it spun faster, accompanied with the staccato unique to the diesel engine that stung into the lapis skies of dawn, filled with thick traces of the night.

The data link had been switched off, for due to the Einstagfliege, all communications in the “Legion” controlled areas were useless. The young commander entering his late twenties had a look at his squad on the three sided optical sensors, and barked into the speaker microphone.

“Who wants the Republic’s monsters protecting us here…this is our war! Show those berserkers the pride of the Federation soldiers!”

 

The squad commander of the armored forces was rambling into the purple and black darkness, and the leader of the armored infantries was on the infantry vehicle, grimacing.

“Seriously, kids everywhere are all so hot-blooded…”

The armored skeleton of the unit was mounted with the favored 12.7mm heavy machine gun, removing the visor that blocked its face to show the squarish face of a man about forty years of age. The subordinates had often teased him for looking like a weary white collar adult commuting on a train rather than a veteran soldiers. Even at this moment, he appeared languid and sleepy.

Within the dark cargo space of the deck, He scanned the rough and rugged silhouettes of his subordinate armored infantries, and spoke without any hint of intimidation..
“Well everyone, leave the cool words like pride or glory to the others. Same thing as usual, just think of how we’re going to make it back alive…but either way,”

He glanced aside at the photo of his wife and child attached to the inside of his armored skeleton, looking as dumbfounded as ever as he shrugged.

“If we’re going to make it back alive, we need a home to make it back to. Let’s continue protecting today, us, and,”

The young fellows in the field dresses before him knew that they would be the first ones crushed, yet they were willing to charge through the barricade of the “Legion”.

And there were the young fellows who knew there was no return for them, and knew that they were the vanguard leading the charge, willing to be delivered deep into enemy territory.

The armoured infantry platoon leader could not help but smile at such conflicting sadness. The optical sensors overlapped with his retinal projection, and the countdown to the operation continued.

10 seconds until the operation began. 3, 2, 1 ──.

“Our comrades can return to our homeland.”

 

──Zero.

The Chief of Staff and the Western Front Chief of Staff looked towards Ernst, who nodded back, and coldly spoke up. Ernst was dressed in the steel grey uniform and cap, his trench coat bereft of any sleeves as it remained draped upon him like a mantle.

“Begin operation.”

 

“Firrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeee!!”

Once the command was given, all the howitzers and MLRS were fired from the artillery area, and the 120mm mortars were fired from the armoured infantries..

The tremendous recoil caused a sandstorm. The rockets whizzed past, launching into the skies.

The barrage covered the entirety of the Eastern skies like a wall of metal, blotting out the remaining lights of the stars. Upon reaching the apex of the parabola, they stabbed into the “Legion” controlled areas with deafening blasts and shockwaves.

 

“──Orders to advance! Alright, let’s do this, you bastards!!!”

“Don’t lose out to those assaulting idiots! Make sure you kick their asses if possible!”

The artillery forces at the back didn’t appear to be ceasing their assault.

They just kept firing, not caring that the barrels were overheated, and found moving bases to be a waste of them. Every minute, every second, the large caliber howitzers continued to bombard them, and amidst the noise, “Vanargands” began their march in wedge formations. In an instant, they advanced with maximum velocity , and the infantry pursued them like shadows.

The power packs and the engines let out ferocious roars, and the murky stream of steel raced across the battlefield at the break of dawn.

The gap between the “Legion” controlled area and the humans was called the Contested Area. The drones remained on standby, their silhouettes appearing under the darkness of the dawn. One Ameise unit looked up to the Eastern skies.

The potent complex sensors it had detected a flash in the distant sky to where it was looking.

Following that, there was a tremendous blast.

Scattered in the skies above the hunting mobile weapons was a cluster of self-forging fragments, deploying their individual radars, swooping the hammer down on the “Legion” units with a velocity of 3000 meters per second..

The blasts powerful enough to blast through the ”Dinosauria” kept exploding. The Earth itself was shaken. The brown-grey sediments were lifted sky high as they formed a veil.

Something was breaking through that veil.

The drones that barely managed to survive were being slaughtered by a bunch of ”Vanargands” hurling towards them like ravaging wolves.

The main screen of the command post at the Joint Headquarters showed the forces fighting valiantly, along with the icons of the squads moving along and clashing with the enemies.

The “Legion” fighting back outnumbered the three countries armies combined. The drones were numerically superior, but the friendlies had lured the enemy out to crush them, and continued to advance, as indicated by their blue icons.

“!!, they’re moving…they’re baited…!”

The “Legion” units waiting in the controlled area were swarming in waves, probably to intercept. The Controller turned around, saw a nod from the Chief of Staff, and spoke into the intercom with a sharp tone.

“”Legion” frontline units have been successfully lured in. Begin second phase.──Division Headquarters to 1028th Control Room, (Læraðr).”Nachzehrer”, please launch!”

 

“──Alright, let’s go!”

The four engines on the two wings of the “Nachzehrer” let out supersonic roars of a jet engine, blaring away, and the tremendous power of the electromagnetic catapult thrusted the 600 ton unit forward.

“…!”

For the Eighty-Sixers, who were used to taking off land in transport carriers or the high mobility of their machines, it was still a tremendous level of acceleration to them. The electromagnetic waves clustered the main screen with noise, and the next moment, the light blue sky of dawn appeared before their eyes.

The ”Nachzehrer” glided past the runway at high speed, reaching the apex in an instant, and glided through the skies along with the wind.

The atmosphere was dyed a dark blue, and the grasslands remained in slumber amidst the cold dawn of autumn as they appeared on screen, but in an instant, they were left far behind.

It was that fast.

And they knew that they were flying at an extremely low altitude.

“This…this is scarier than I thought…!”

“Who’s the one who suggested taking this to begin with!? That weirdo’s wrong in the head man!!”

Grethe, seated on the pilot seat, was cackling away.

She, being unlike her usual self, was laughing shrilly. She might be having excessive adrenaline pumped into her, for she was being high.

She was unable to suppress her emotions, it was as though she was back at the casinos after a long time.

“What an honor is it to to have you fearless fools say this! Just to note, this baby can fly 800km an hour. There’s another 100 click to go to the target…enjoy the nine minute ride while you can!”

20,000 meters in the air above “Legion” controlled territory.

All the frontlines adjacent to the three countries were sending report of enemy engagements, and that “Legion” unit was gathering it greedily.

It was a sister unit of the Einstagfliege, the EWAC type unit (Rabe).

The Stachelschwein and Einstagfliege secured absolute aerial supremacy for the “Legion”, and the EWAC unit could detect the various movements of all human forces in the far distance. The 122m full wingspan was cluttered with solar panels, and this silver crow would continue to fly until it got hit, or came to the end of its lifespan as a drone.

It also possessed commanding and analytical abilities through the intel transmitted by the Einstagfliege, and give appropriate commands to the “Legion” unit under its charge.

Through the hivemind, it analysed the situation, and immediately made decisions. The fighting strength under its command was limited, and there was a need to request the vast network for response.

The Rabe submitted this report to the deepest part of the Legion controlled area, to the vast network of the main commanding unit, pursuing the attacking enemy as it slowly tilted its wings in the high skies, turning away.

 

“Understood.──No Face to all units in Big Network no. 1. We have confirmed the invasion from the Federation, United Kingdom, and Alliance.”

This notification came from the commander unit of Big Network no. 1, overseeing the “Legion” army dividing the Federation, Republic, United Kingdom and Alliance. The electronic voice was transmitted through the air. It was chatter between the machines, neither of human voices, nor of human words.

It was the shepherd with the callsign ”No Face”. The face its wife and daughter could have recognized was gone, but the human faith it had still lingered. The upbringing this ghost had when it was alive that derived joy in such mockery and sarcasm.

The commander unit had determined that this was an expected outcome.

The enemy’s aerial and guided weapons were sealed off, and did not possess a long ranged cannon of similar power. The enemy had no choice but to send the entire army forth to fight. It appeared that the armies of the three countries were not aiming to reduce their casualty count, waiting to be burned down by the railgun.

Unlike its own country, which chose to hide within its walls, have a sweet dream, and be destroyed when the walls were completely obliterated.

But even so, the fight against the Republic was proceeding smoothly.

Two months ago, there was a setback during the first move when it began its extermination plans against all four armies.

For the Federation army appeared to have predicted when the attack would begin. Preparations were hastily made, but they managed to muster sufficient resistance.

No Face knew.

It had received a report from its old country, the frontlines against the Republic of San Magnolia..

There was a special battle area, where every attack and ambush was perfectly anticipated.

And the Railgun, with the electromagnetic interference of the Einstagfliege, was deployed at the frontline against the Federation, and it started its assault from more than a hundred kilometers away However, it got counterattacked, its position was clearly locked upon. Perhaps,

The delay of the plan had to be rectified on this day.

The enemies had to be exterminated.

“All units, release standby phase. Tactical algorithm shifted to extermination battle mode.”

The killer instincts designed by the program had ordered them to fight when there was no reason to. It was a rule of engagement that the exterminated Empire had installed in the drones, an instinct to keep massacring anything not listed as an ally, and to simply continue battling if there was no one commanding it to stop.
.
The commander unit had ceased to consider this obsolete matter.

The human language was long gone when it had died many years ago, on the battlefield of the Eighty-Sixth area.

“Begin extermination.”

“Frontline forces have begun their advance. This is command car to all vehicles! We’re moving forward too! Get ready to move out!”

The mobile forces on the frontlines were clashing with the enemies, and the artillery forces were not to attack the combatants, but the reinforcements that were being sent in from behind. Of course, if the mobile forces continued to advance, the rearguard would have to drag the heavy cannons down the burning battlefield as well.

“Move artillery area to the front! Time to blow up that bunch of scrap metal right there─!”

The squad commander girl had taken the commander car to the frontlines, and took a larger, spacious car with her squadmates, rousing on everyone as she held the car’s wireless microphone. However, she had an ominous feeling, and looked up.

At that moment, the thick black howitzers and rocket missiles ripped through the the blue sky, silently as it covered the Western sky.

Those were the Scorpions’ anti-air blasts . The Ameise possessed highly potent anti-cannon radars, and pinpointed the launch direction within 2 minutes, allowing for the Scorpions, connected through data link, to shoot them down with precision.

“! Evade──────!!”

As she had yelled, she was slowed down. Everything seemed to be dragged out, and at the last moment, the artillery commander stared blankly at the 155mm shell falling right onto her head.

“Captain!”

The driver of the commander’s car leapt over, and she was knocked off the car by the massive body, falling onto the ground.

The munition landed.

The anti-tank, anti-personnel howitzers fired in unique, and the impact blast of 8000 meters per second was spreading shrapnel and flames at high speeds, devastating the entire artillery area.

Even a ”Vanargand” would be pulverised by a direct hit from the 155mm munition, and the command car was shattered..

The black framed glasses had fallen off due to the shockwave, distorted as it flew in the sky.

The artillery commander looked on blankly as the driver remained upon her.

When the explosives blew up on the ground, lying down with feet facing the blast could minimize the damage. The density of the human body is a lot more than the air, and can act as a shield against the sharpnel.

The commander was prone on the ground, and was not fatally injured due to the driver’s body protecting her..

But the driver shielding her was,

The pilot covering her suddenly felt heavy.

The commander was nearly crushed by the weight of the body, finally climbing out, she gasped.

“──Corporal.”

Most likely,

What was before her was the driver.

She was momentarily dazed, and then immediately picked up the glasses with the shattered lens by her side. The array of artillery forces no longer existed, and the forces under her charge became a hell of metal scraps and charred flesh. She looked around, and as she did not have her microphone, she yelled with all her might.

She inhaled the stench of flesh and blood, unfazed by it, her eyes looking intimidating.

“──Damage report! The battle’s not over yet!!”

 

Covering the dawn was a thin veil of darkness, and the waves of grass was like a sea amidst a storm. The evening dew and the sparks flew about, turbulent colours of steel and rust ripping through the night air.

Comprising one side were the “Vanargands” armoured infantry, and infantry tanks, while the other side comprised of “Legion” units, Löwes, Grauwolves and Ameises. It was chaos, a vortex of clashes.

The grasslands had no obstacles present, and it meant that the Löwes and Dinosaurias, possessing superior firepower and mobility, were completely advantaged. The armoured infantry knew that they were completely disadvantaged, yet the Federation units had to enter this battlefield, and overwhelm the enemy through numbers, using an ally as a decoy to get behind, and wear down the enemy’s advantage. One side kept trying to get behind, while the other was not going to let that happen. It was no wonder that there was chaos when such mobility was taking place.

And amidst the countless blind spots formed, those things was hidden there.

The squad commander was at the back seat of the “Vanargand”, and spotted that in the narrow vision of the optical sensor.

A miniature human silhouette was crawling up the edge of the armour,by the side of the turret of the multi-legged field dress.

It was something that should not be present on a battlefield, the silhouette of a three year old toddler. For a moment, the commander did not realize what was going on as it stared at the thing dragging itself up. Everything beneath the waist was blown away.

There was no way a human could move in that situation. It was clearly a fatal blow.

In other words, it was not human.

It was a drone mine.

The unexpected child-like appearance was the initial model that was used when there were some citizens on the frontlines ten years ago..

It was behind the turret, beneath the barrel of the heavy machine gun. Once it got there, it was over.

The killing machine with the size and silhouette of a toddler was crawling up the cannon.

The faceless head was peering into the optical sensor. The synthesized childish voice had sounded strangely clear and distinguishable, despite there not being any mouth on it to begin with..

──Ma, ma.

“…Shit,”

“No no no, this won’t do..”

Following that, a jolt of lightning occurred.

The armoured exoskeleton was way too light compared to the “Vanargands” weighing over 50 tonnes, and was at most 100kg. This exoskeleton hopped onto the turret. The contact communication circuit was activated, followed by an obfuscating dumb voice,

“Can’t let the youngins die first. Those parents will cry.”

There was no time to raise the 12.7mm heavy machine gun to shoot it down, and there was no time to kick that thing off. The armoured infantry hopped onto the field dress, and leapt onto the anti-tank drone mine. The weight was far lighter than the ”Vanargand”, but the immature drone mine could not withstand the weight. The hands grabbing onto the armour let go of it immediately, tumbling to the ground along with the armoured infantry.

Following that was a flash.

“Captain…!?”

The explosives could rip through the thick armor of the “Vanargand”. Nothing would have remained of a fragile human body coupled with the thin armour.

A small object fluttered past the optical sensors.

Its edges were on fire. It was a family photo of two parents and their children.

Damn it…!

There was no time to bite their lips or hit the inside of the cockpit agitatedly. The battle was still going on..

In any case, he had to rally the armoured infantry that had lost their commander…or at the very least, get the rest of them to survive..

“Unit 02 and 03, follow me! Armoured infantry, follow us! …Shit!”

The commander shut off the microphone, spitting out those words.

He glared at the dark skies beyond the “Dinosaurias” before him.

You Eighty-Sixer brats aren’t there yet…!?

News of the Federation army’s assault had reached the “Nachzehrer” through the unlocked wireless communicator..

The RAID device was still within experimental phase, and was not prepared for mass production. Thus, Nordlicht Squadron remained the only force equipped with them. Shinn was on standby within the “Juggernaut”, listening intently, hearing the messages and noise caused by the Einstagfliege deployed all over the battlefield.

225th Armoured Battalion has arrived at the phase line Zink, and will hold its position until friendlies arrive. 417th Infantry Company here, 139th medic platoon will be heading over. Please send the wounded to the back. This is 32nd Armoured Battalion, commander is KIA. Deputy will take over. 775th Infantry Company calling 828th Artillery Base. Please proceed with fire support. Yeah, that doesn’t matter. Fire it all over us.

The messages exchanged amidst the roars and madness of the battlefield were all in the form of growls. Screams, hollers, shrieks came from the other end, and the yells that echoed overwhelming these noises.

It had ferocity just a hair’s breadth away from madness; it was valiant determination.

Raiden then muttered,

“──The Federation ain’t backing down here..”

The Federation continued to be worn down over and over again by the waves of “Legion” units, but even so, the Federation army would not budge an inch. In fact, they had their field dresses flow into the waves of the enemy like wedges, and the rearguard kept pushing forth, ignoring the vanguard that was being torn apart, advancing forward to open the back.

They did not back down. It appeared that they would lose something if they took a step back, and would not back down no matter how far they were pinned down.

In fact, if they did retreat, they would lose things. If they lost the current frontline and allowed the “Morpho” to enter that space, the thing they have to protect, which was behind them, would be within range of the Railgun.

Thus, they would not back down, not even an inch, even if their bodies were to be blown up by the cannons.

It was a battle none of the Eighty-Sixers had seen, not even Shinn.

There was no such battle at the Eighty-Sixth area of the Republic.

For the Eighty-Sixers, the Republic was not their homeland, and the Albas who were supposed to serve their country never stepped onto the battlefield.

“Protect…huh?”

Families. Hometown. Compatriots. Ideals of the country.

The place of solace that they should be residing at, where these factors originated.

He could hear the voice of the Selena boy who no longer lived.

──I want to bring my little sister to the sea.

He fought on, harbouring such hopes…and even with them, he died.

──In that case, why did you?

Shinn could not ask,

He had no reason to fight, nothing to protect, and that meant,

The messages kept flying.

A certain squad was isolated in a certain area, surrounded by attacks, and voices echoed through the wireless communicator.

Hang on. Hang on. Just a little bit longer, until,

Until the shitty Eighty-Sixers destroy the ”Legion” ultimate weapon.

That happens, and we win.

Someone let out an agitated laugh that ended up being detected by the Para-RAID.

“Those guys are waiting for us to destroy the “Morpho”, huh? In that case,”

“I suppose we have to respond to everyone’s wishes then…maybe? Well, since they are working hard, we should give our utmost too.”

Hearing the delighted chatter from his comrades, Shinn did not respond.

For he sensed new movements from the “Legion” forces they were headed towards.

“──Colonel,”

“Yeah, I see it…it’s going to block our way.”

“Any chances of evading?”

“Going to be hard. This baby is bad at turning around.”

The landcraft had a unique characteristic of flying close to the ground, and could not tilt about. While it was possible to steer its rudder, it would take too much time.

Saying that, Grethe pulled the control stick up. The elevator moved, and the “Nachzehrer” lifted its head. While the landcraft continued to fly near the ground in the most suitable manner, it was unable to lift its altitude. The craft had sacrificed its speed for height, and in an instant, reached a height high enough to be considered airborne.

It flew into the air stolen from human hands by the Stachelschwein and Einstagfliege, into the dangerous air that could be captured by radar and anti-air fire.

“What…”

“Even if I drop you all here, you’ll have to fight off those things coming to block you. There’s no point in bringing out this baby then.”

The alarm rang on the other end of the RAID device, clearly indicating that they had been targeted. The alarm was due to the detection by the radar before the Stachelschwein fired at it..

At the same time, deep rumbling sounds came from the back cargo hatch as it opened.

“I had the research branch prepare this just in case. Looks like it’s the right choice. Sorry, it’s just something made hastily, but we should be able to deploy it.”

The Processors suddenly realized that their “Reginleifs” were not fastened to the cargo space, but on sturdy pallets. Also, they found sturdy metal guide rails leading to the cargo hatch.

“Ahh, don’t worry about me. I’m not going to crash land, and I brought a spare machine here…didn’t I say that I used to be a pilot too? You Eighty-Sixers aren’t the only ones unhappy about how slow the “Vanargand” is.”

There were 15 Processors, and 16 “Reginleif” units. There was one unit in the deepest part of the cargo space, with no pilot.

“…Colonel, there are two companies of enemies on our paths, most likely made up of Löwes as the main units. There’s no need to engage if we’re going with a diversion, but do hide in the forests upon contact with the enemy.”

“Why thank you. But…don’t underestimate me, brat.”

Shinn was left flabbergasted, and was shut down. Grethe chortled.

For some reason, there was some nostalgia.

“Well then, see you next time──godspeed!”

Grethe ended off with an old fashioned line of wishing people good luck on their journeys, and the Para-RAID was disconnected. At the same time, the locks of the guard rails were removed.

Sparks and shrieks flew when the metal rubbed upon each other. The 15 ”Reginleifs” units and Fido fell from the rails, tossed into the dawning skies immediately.

The land weapons ”Reginleif” certainly didn’t have any functions to break free from gravity. They looked up to the sky as they fell, and could see the black silhouette of the “Nachzehrer” turning away with the golden sky as the backdrop. The anti-air cannon fire blew by in the sky grazing it, and the silver glittering cities could be seen further ahead.

The cluster of buildings got taller as they approached the city center, and the overhead bridges were abundant between them. Further beyond were echoing grudges that caught Shinn’s attention.

──Is that it?

After that, the parachutes installed on the pallets were opened, and the units slowed down tremendously.

The unit felt the jolt caused by the acceleration in the back, and the four point seat belt pulled Shinn back. He lifted his head, and at that moment, the pallet landed on the ground.

The ”Nachzehrer” was slowing down as it raised its altitude, and the parachute had slowed down the unit’s decent greatly, but falling at this speed was still relatively unsafe even for hard landing. There were shock absorbers inside the pallets, yet the tremendous jolt shook the unit, and even the Processors, accustomed to the high mobility of the ”Reginleif”, could only endure the shock and avoid biting their tongues.

The pallet left a few black scorch marks on the green grasslands, and came to a halt.

The automatic locks were removed, and the 15 ”Reginleif” units stumbled into the ”Legion” controlled area. It seemed that even the AI was dazed, as Fido’s optical sensor was facing a little bit to the back before it hopped off.

Shinn shook his dazed head, and looked up. The barren plains were distorted by the middling forest, where a trail of black smoke rose due to the burning jet fuel. A tad bit later, a tremendous barrage of fire was pelted upon them..

“! We lost contact with the ”Nachzehrer”! ”Nachzehrer” signal lost!”

The controller for the 1028th Experimental Squad reported with a scream of agony, and the Division Headquarters immediately demanded for confirmation.The Western Army Chief of Staff was personally affirming it.

“What’s the situation with Nordlicht Squadron?”

“They were airborne before the signal was lost. All units are safe, 5kms within target…but,”

The controller reported as he bit his lips. The ”Reginleif” had tremendous footspeed, and entered the outskirts of Kreuzberk while the ”Nachzehrer” attracted the attention of the “Legion”. However…

“Lieutenant Nouzen has just reported engagement—the squad is currently fighting ”Legion” forces guarding the “Morpho”!”

Firing upon the streets in a thick cluster were four sets of 155mm tank cannons and 76mm coaxial sub-cannons, coupled with eight 14mm rotating guns.

There was a platoon of ”Dinosaurias” awaiting them as they entered the city, and Shinn narrowed his eyes. The “Legion” were definitely going to protect their tactical weapon, but it was truly difficult to deal with.

The “Reginleifs” were a lot better than the aluminium coffins of the Republic, but the armour could not withstand the illogical destructiveness of the 155mm weapons. The cannons of the “Dinosaurias” spun everywhere, shooting aside the evading silver machines. Backed by the highly potent automated reloading system, the “Dinosaurias” continued to fire its missiles quickly in pursuit of the “Juggernauts”.

The walls were shot through, beams were torn apart, and buildings collapsed, torn apart by the straight lines of bullets. Amidst the rubble, the squad led by Bernault tried to detour and get close, but 8 cannons were aimed towards them.

The “Undertaker” landed right behind them.

The high frequency blade swung down from high and fast into the back armour of the “Dinosauria”, and then he followed it up by cutting into a second unit next to it, before firing a cannon towards it. A tad bit later, “Laughing Fox” hopped out of a collapsing building, did a somersault, and fired two more shots, destroying the remaining two “Dinosaurias”.

“──Shinn! The next wave is coming!”

Shinn knew it without needing to be told.

The “Undertaker” and “Laughing Fox” jumped left and right respectively, and two machine guns were fired upon where they were. The Federation provides armour even for its infantries, and mere 7.62mm common bullets were ineffective. The Ameise abandoned the low common guns, and switched to the 14mm anti-light armour guns instead.

The next moment, reinforcement “Juggernauts” hopped in to where the first two had vacated, firing all their guns at the enemies.

The “Werewolf” emerged from between the gap of the fallen “Dinosaurias”, while the “Snow Witch” appeared from the cover of the rubble, and the “Gunslinger” fired a wire at a wall, scaling it. All three fired the heavy machine guns on their arms. The Ameise, boasting thin armour to begin with, were immediately torn apart, and Nordlicht Squadron again advanced past them with the “Undertaker” leading the charge.

Fido, which had been on standby at the back, regrouped with everyone. Soon after, Bernault and his squad returned.

“You guys all right, Sergeant?“

“That’s our line here. What’s with your crazy mobility there…yeah, we have no damage on our side, Lieutenant. Seeing how the enemy defense line is so compact, it looks like we have no choice but to fight our way through even with your hellish ears.”

Despite Shinn managing to pinpoint the locations and movements of the “Legion”, battle remained inevitable as they were supposed to invade heavily fortified areas.

The old Kreuzberk city, like the gateway cities of the other countries, was the place where the railways of the neighbouring countries were gathered, along with the railway network, the city design had a rare emphasis. Skyscrapers of glass and metal stood everywhere, with numerous overhead bridges crossing about like a mechanized city, creating a futuristic vibe.

Every single position there was filled with hidden “Legion” units.

Grauwolves trampled upon the glass windows of the building, racing down in waves like an avalanche. The Löwes raced upon the overhead bridges of the highways. The potent sensors of the Ameise gave off dark glints, as they crawled out of the gaps between the building. The Scorpions’ anti-armour missiles came flying at them over the buildings. The 15 “Juggernauts” darted between them, racing through the ruins of the building.

Shinn followed the lament of Frederica’s knight, darting through the gaps of the “Legion”, heading towards the center of the city in the shortest time possible, where the terminal of the old high speed railway was said to be.

“──I’ll kill you.”

He was headed to the lament of a ghost that he was used to hearing, one filled with emptiness, bare bloodlust.

“I’ll kill all of you.”

Shinn continued to approach it. The lament of the “Morpho” was akin to thunder, or the roar of a tank cannon, its impact strongly reverberating through his body. The intimidating roar rattled his organs, and Shinn gritted his teeth.

Perhaps,

It felt relieved just by exuding its tremendous bloodlust .

It was just being corrupted into a fighting machine, and letting the frenzy of war and cold blood devour itself, so that it would not need to think.

It did not need to be concerned with anything that could help regain its self.

Perhaps his brother back then was the same.

And so , a doubt bounced about in his chest like a sturdy rock.

What if he died before he could reach his brother? What if he died alone on that Eighty-Sixth area without managing a mutual kill? What if his body was so battered that his head could not be taken? Would his brother, having lost its objective, end up as a monster full of spite and malice against the entire world like this soul?

If he had lost his brother before he could slay his soul, and lost the objective that was his brother, would he have ended up like this too?

“I’ll murder everything and anything…!”

The ridge lines of the building snapped. Everyone came to an open place with the sky wide open above.

At that moment, the Eighty-Sixers and the Wargus, who had already seen everything in battle, were left dumbfounded.

“…Uwah.”

“That…big…?”

They were at a traffic circle, the concrete floor and the metal street lamps aligned evenly before them. Though it was morning, the skies beneath the Einstagfliege remained dark, dyed in a faded silver. Beneath it,

That long and massive thing was just lying there sideways.

It was crouched beneath frosted glass, amidst the dome-shaped station akin to a glass cocoon. The main body was large enough to devour a common house, and the calibre it bore could stuff an entire person whole. At this point, it was lying horizontally.

Clearly it resembled the seven-headed dragon in the Revelations. The scale of that thing would drive anyone crazy.

Its presence alone gave the impression that anything would be crushed by it.

The childhood memory Shinn once had and forgotten appeared in his mind.

He had seen such a depiction at a certain museum, before he was sent to the Concentration Camp.

It was the skeletal specimen of a whale, the primitive beast of the sea, appearing beneath the ceiling of the already spacious hall.

It was so massive that the young Shinn assumed that those were not the bones of a living creature. He could not imagine such a massive creature swimming.

It was so big that it was on a completely different scale, probably dimensions apart.

He looked up with bated breath, and felt fear at such an overwhelming presence.

He shook off that feeling, and said,

“──1028th Control Room(Læraðr HQ). We’re at the Kreuzberk highway terminal. Target confirmed. Preparing to engage.”

“Læraðr HQ confirmed…The United Kingdom’s scout unit has arrived. Looks like it’s a railway gun. That’s really big though…!!”

“…Lieutenant!”

Bernault’s somewhat anxious voice echoed.

Blue coloured ghost lights could be seen on the optical sensors, at the interior of the frosted glass dome, probably on newly installed multi-tracked railways.

It caused a rumble that could be heard hundreds of meters away, while the long and massive cannon on its back started to turn. A groan could be heard as it moved within the interior, rumbling through the silver skies.

“It’s moving!? Are the repairs done…!?”

“The “Legion” have always exceeded our expectations, but why is it always this ridiculous…!”

…No.

Beneath the trunk of the ”Morpho” were multiple appendages resembling legs, that were unable to move. It appeared to have ignored the mobility of the railway gun, and prioritized repairs of its cannon…

Shinn felt that something was amiss.

…When repairing that thing.

Was it possible to discard the legs bearing the weight of the entire body, and replace the cannon that was already heavy?

The countless laments of the “Legion” suddenly faded away like the tide.

Before Shinn could wonder why, he got the answer. He looked towards the stare facing him, and found the “Morpho” staring down at him.

 

A voice.

 

The voice of the “Legion” commander, the “shepherd” seemed to be right next to Shinn, distinct amongst the other voices.

The vengeful screams of the “Morpho” overwhelmed the tempest of “Legion” wails scattered all over the city,

It vanished.

And at the same time, far away, the same roar happened. It was a roar filled with bloodlust at Humanity, the entire world. It was the bloodthirsty roar of a Knight, one who was blood-related to Shinn, whose appearance while alive remained unknown.

Another person appeared on the Para-RAID.

The shrill voice of a girl that should not be on the battlefield entered deep within the synchronized audio.

“──Back down,Shinei!”

It was Frederica, who should be back at the base.

“The one before you is not Kiri!”

The understanding, along with fear, rose up his spine.

You’ve been baited.

Shinn felt a jolt, and suddenly glanced in a different direction.

The frozen black eyes opened, lifted slowly, and glared at them.

Shinn zoomed in at a corner of the main screen, towards a narrow gap between the buildings.

The massive shadow appeared above the massive tower over the horizon, looming over them.

The tower was crushed by the massive weight, and atop it, the thing lifted its head like a massive snake from an ancient Eastern legend, the massive cannon on its back aiming towards them.

“All hands! Evade now ──…”

They witnessed a muzzle flash, or rather, what appeared to be an electrical discharge in the shape of an arc.

The railgun blast shot out in a low trajectory, literally blowing up a portion of the entire city.

“Pale Rider to No Face. Preplanned firing schedule completed.”

Kiriya, within the new body it was transplanted to, reported to the commanding unit.

“Successfully lured in unique enemy, callsign “Báleygr”. The enemy appears to have been destroyed.”

They, the “shepherds”, had detected a unique individual many years ago, one that could detect all ambushes and advances with astounding precision, and pick up the commander unit.

That unit had first appeared on the Eastern frontlines of the Republic. Over this year, it crossed through the “Legion” controlled area, to the Western frontlines of the Federation.

Multiple units were not detected, so in other words, that was not a skill or knowledge that could be mass produced or passed down. Perhaps it was a gift, an ability unique to that enemy alone.

That unit was a tremendous threat, and its elimination was to be prioritized.

Luckily, Kiriya had twice detected a unit that should be piloted by that enemy, and fought with it twice. The data was insufficient, but it was worth analyzing.

However, that enemy had weaknesses.

“Analysis results are correct──the Báleygr is unable to detect backup units in stasis.”

The enemy unit appeared to be obsessed with a certain “Dinosauria” unit.

But it did not respond to another machine created by the same corpse, until the machine moved.

 

That unit was the backup “Shepherd” unit in stasis before its brain construct could be transferred from the destroyed “Dinosauria”.

 

The commander unit responded with an order.

“No Face to Pale Rider. Confirm destruction of Báleygr.”

Kiriya had a silent urge to snort.

Truly, this fellow had been causing a series of problems for them over the past few months.

According to what the core network had determined, the prior mass scale onslaught would be ending in seven days. Back then, Kiriya had felt that it was just a mockery of the book of Genesis.

But such plans were thrown out of the window.

The perfectly planned ambush on the Federation’s Western frontlines was completely seen through, and the armies of the three countries counterattacked. Once the Grand Mur was destroyed, Kiriya was supposed to attack the Republic, but was forced into the anti-Federation front, and was severely damaged by the counterattack of the guided missiles. Kiriya could not transfer its consciousness into the prepared backup unit, for fear that the enemy might detect its location, and ended up waiting for almost a month.

All because there was a unique enemy that could detect their movements, fighting on the Federation’s frontlines.

“Pale Rider to No Face. It is determined that there is no need for that. Báleygr has been destroyed.”

“────No Face here, roger. Quickly leave from firing position, and return to your area.”

“Hmph.”

It looked down at the tower at its feet.

Weight exceeding a thousand tonnes caused the sturdy metal tower to crumble at the base, uplifted like a tree in a tornado as it remained exposed on the ground.

──Kiri.

The voice of its young master, now ever so distant, was reawakened within it.

She was the one and only master it had, whose face it could not remember.

A few times, she would come to Kiriya crying, saying that her handkerchief was stuck on a tree in the courtyard, and would beg to see the nest perched atop it. She would climb the tree while the maidservants were not looking, only for the hem of her dress to be caught on the tree, and then she would end up being unable to climb down. Whenever that happened, it was Kiriya who climbed the tree to help her down.

It could not do those things anymore.

This machine body could not do it.

Not in this world without her.

Let’s go back. So it thought. It turned its back on its homeland that it had not entered for a long time.

Let’s hurry and burn this world down.

“Ugh──!”

Everyone was left momentarily speechless.

“Bombardment around Kreuzberk terminal confirmed. Likely a “Morpho” attack ──”

Growls filled the command room.

“Impossible!”

“Repairs shouldn’t be complete!! How did it fire!?”

“…No,”

The Chief of Staff suddenly muttered, and everyone looked at him.

He rubbed his chiselled chin, staring at the main screen filled with alert messages, pondering as he said,

“It was not repaired, but refitted…if the enemy had prepared a spare unit to begin with, it would be easier to transfer the intact core into the spare machine, rather than swap out all the damaged parts.”

Of course, if they had not considered the enormous costs of building two railguns and two railway guns.

However, the “Legion” were not humans, and thus such issues were of no concern when the utmost priority was to defeat the enemy.

“That bunch of scrap metal’s ridiculous…!”

“What about Nordlicht Squadron’s situation?”

“Unclear. The United Kingdom scout that had entered seemed to be completely destroyed by the blast..”

Signals of the interrupted, noise-filled visuals surrounding the Kreuzberk were gradually vanishing one by one.

“Then use the guided missiles──”

“It’s useless.”

Ernst flatly noted, and everyone looked over.

“What do you intend to destroy with the guided missiles? ──Where did the “Morpho” fire from?”

The generals understood the intent behind those words, and froze in their places.

When the FOBs were attacked, there were anti-fire radars tracking the trajectories of the shots, which allowed for them to deduce where it was first shot from.

But this time, they were bombarded within enemy territory. There was no radar there.

Even if they wanted to fire, they did not know the enemy’s position.

“B-but…Your Excellency, we’re dealing with a railway gun! If we destroy the rails, at the very least, we can stop it from moving──”

“The enemy will still be capable of taking out almost all of the FOBs on the Western front, right? A few tracks can be repaired immediately. That will be a waste of missiles.”

“But now that Nordlicht Squadron has failed, we have no other strategy left! The Western front is completely exposed to enemy fire, so if we keep fighting our way through ──…!”

“We may survive this, but we can’t hang on forever. Are you going to send in another squad? We don’t have any way to retreat, you know?”

“…!”

They did order to prepare the rest of their guided missiles.

It was their backup plan in case the assault failed, and another purpose was that, if the main Federation army did not reach Kreuzberk, they could use this to open a path for those retreating.

Even if the main forces could not regroup with them, they could minimize the number of “Legion” units retreating. There was no need to tell the young soldiers whom they had sent to their deaths not to come back.

Ernst scanned the command room, sneering,

“So, you sent your subordinates to their deaths just to save your hides, and your backup plans have failed. As a human, this is truly an abomination of an act. Do you think I, the temporary President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federation army will allow that? Those are not the ideals the Federations should have. If we cannot abide by such ideals, we might as well be destroyed.”

The command room immediately went quiet.

What the President said was true, and it was a rational logic that humans should abide to, the justice they should have.

But to fulfil these ideals,

The ones capable of fulfilling them,

The fire dragon sat on the commander seat, sneering,

The ideals, the justice was no more than pretty things said to please the crowd, yet this monster had exalted them to the point of trampling over the lives of others in a hypocritical manner, leering away with the madness in his heart revealed.

“For many years, you have chosen someone like me as the President, and that responsibility falls on you. If you are unable to settle this without resorting to inhumane methods…sacrifice your lives for my ideals then.”

Suddenly, the Intercom rang.

The communicator, who had been frozen still the entire time, was unable to respond. Instead, the Chief of Staff picked up the line.

“…Looks like there’s no need for that.──1028th control room, Læraðr HQ has reported that all units of Nordlicht Squadron are safe. They will continue their mission to eliminate the “Morpho”.”

The warning reached the others in time.

Luckily for them, the “Juggernauts” were located in the city center, shielded by the sturdier buildings.

But even so, the shockwaves sent the “Undertaker” flying, and Shinn shook his dizzy head inside, getting his unit to stand. The buildings had collapsed, the pavements uplifted, and the ruins of the city was reduced to rubble as he looked through the white concrete dust blinding his eyes.

The old high speed railway terminal was pelted by the cannon’s concentrated fire, and vanished without a trace. There was a massive crater etched deep beneath, the steel colored waste was torn and twisted completely, and the nanomachine silver blood dripped upon the ground.

A bait…Huh?

The “Legion” was no wooden dummy.

It possessed amazing self-learning abilities, and would improve itself repeatedly to match up against human tactics and weapons.

And the “shepherds” too had absorbed the undegraded neural constructs of the dead, possessing equal intellect and living knowledge of the human.

But even so, it was the first time Shinn had his ghost hearing abilities used against him.

He looked towards the distant tower, the massive shadow that glared upon him after firing its cannon, and narrowed his eyes.

“What the hell’s with that centipede bastard…!?”

“More like a hundred legs. Its legs are so leg, and it’s just moving them so quickly.”

“Doesn’t matter what it looks like…it’s disgusting.”

Clearly, it was a multi-legged carnivorous looking animal.

It had a massive body, with the color of darkness upon it. The countless arthropod legs were folded at this point. The 800mm calibre gun had a long barrel that could initiate an 8000 meters per second initial velocity. This terrifyingly cold feeling was similar to an insect instinctively killing its prey despite being devoid of intelligence and will. The cruelty of this heavy cannon witnessed no deaths, yet it caused the most deaths of them all.

However, the dark silhouette stood tall beneath the dull morning sun and the skies encased in silver. The blue eye glittered, giving it a surreal majesty, like the evil Dragon challenging God in the myths.

The blue optical sensor slowly scanned the rubble, probably yet to detect that they were hidden beneath the cover of the rubble and the buildings. It had no doubts that it destroyed its enemies, and was merely checking the destruction it caused. Clearly it was acting haughty.

“──Everyone.”

All 15 members were connected through the Para-RAID, and while some units were damaged by the flying rubble and shockwaves, none of them died. None of them were unable to keep fighting.

“Change target. Position 280, distance 5000. Switch to HEAT (High-explosive anti-tank) ──fire away.”

At the same time, shots were fired from the sides of the ruined city’s craters and the and the gaps of the rockbed-like building rubble, concentrated upon the ”Morpho”.

As it did not expect a counterattack, the huge Dragon did not follow the usual theory of fire movement, and instead remained still upon the tower, bombarded by the 88mm missiles.

While the missile was slower than an APFSDS(Armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot), the HEAT warhead was still moving at several mach speed. It would take several seconds to see it hit from 5km away. Something shone on the back of the “Morpho”. The CIWS (Close-in weapons system) roared away, shooting down the 88mm HEAT warhead. The missile cluster Ange fired a moment later rained upon the enemy, but the “Morpho” nonchalantly used the HEAT explosions to parry them aside.

None of the shots appeared to have penetrated the armor…it was harder than expected.

Shinn coolly watched on, and squeezed the trigger.

He had used the cannons of every single as a decoy as he approached the outskirts of the ruined city. The HEAT and anti-armor warheads formed a smokescreen, while the APFSDS ripped through the air, landing near the turret of the “Morpho”. The flames of the explosions must have dulled the sensors for a moment, for the huge Dragon looked a little intimidated.

“…Shallow.”

But even so, Shinn could not penetrate through. Most of the APFSDS destructiveness was due to speed, and the closer the target, the more powerful the shot would be. Shinn approached the enem, having anticipated this, but it appeared it was still not close enough.

There was nothing to provide cover from fire. Shinn pondered on how to close in as his bloody eyes looked sharper.

…!?

Kiriya took the pellets from the remaining small fries, and was taken aback by the sudden jolt. Looking back, it spotted the white machine on the optical sensor, unexpectedly closing in.

The four legged machine appeared to be looking for its missing head. The 88mm cannon was on its back, and a pair of high frequency blades was mounted on its combat arms. Kiriya recognized that close-combat white field dress that was out of place in this firepower-focused era of modern combat.

Callsign “Báleygr”──the unique enemy that could detect all ”Legion” movements.

Once it spotted the personal mark, it gasped.

The headless skeleton with the shovel raised.

The Headless Skeleton Knight was the ancestral crest of the Nouzens.

The illustration book based on that legend…which the old master had sent to his grandchildren living in the Republic.

No way.

That,

Suddenly,

A heinous delight was aroused within Kiriya, once it never felt before.

You’re still alive──no.

You end up like this, still living until now?

The main commander called in.

“No Face to Pale Rider. Enemy forces are to be dealt by the escort squad. Retreat immediately.”

Kiriya’s mood was immediately dampened. What?

“Pale Rider to No Face. This order can’t be accepted. Unit will destroy the enemy now.”

“No Face to Pale Rider. Repeating this. Escort team will deal with the enemy. Retreat from current battle area right now. Continual engagement within current area is forbidden.”

Argh…!

Despite the frustrations Kiriya felt, the protocol breach warning was flowing in its nanoachine head. The program entered in its brain had forbidden it from continuing to refute. Though it was a “Shepherd” with the personality and will of a KIA, it could not defy orders from its higher ups.

“The current distance is advantageous to the tank cannons of the enemy field dresses. Given your equipment, there is a high possibility of you killing the Báleygr, Pale Rider. Due to the aforementioned reasons, Pale Rider, you are not allowed to remain in this current battle area.”

“──”

“Do retreat to the area you are in charge of. Clean up your area.”

“──.──.──.Copy that”

Its instincts as a “Legion” unit would not allow it to do otherwise.

However…this might be perfect as a sideshow in its aim to burn the world down.

From the gap of the rubble, it peered at the unit of its peer, which it had never seen.

The unsightliness of the one who lost his homeland, his family robbed by his country, and yet continued to live on.

We’re the same.

You’re the same as me, with no place to live other than the battlefield.

And I’ll make sure you know this.

Kiriya twisted its body, and hopped off the tower. The rails screeched as its massive weight landed upon it.

It glanced aside at the kindred soul whose name and face it did not know of.

Come after me.

I’m going to burn everything before your eyes.

Whether it’s your comrades, your place of return, or the things keeping your humanity.

I’ll make you more lonely than ever.

The enemy glanced at him.

Shinn’s consciousness was sharpened by his fighting spirit, and he sensed the leer.

──Come get me.

He averted his eyes, and found the numerous legs of the ”Morpho” rising like the waves, rumbling in a terrifying manner. It moved quietly, its massive weight racing forth, in a manner unbefitting its massive body and the acceleration of a typical “Legion”

A strange noise was caused as the metallic legs latched upon the eight rails, sounding like rain that was becoming distant as it ran away. In an instant, it was as fast as a falcon aiming for its prey. Its ominous silhouette moved at a speed neither the Löwes nor the Dinosaurias could match up to, and dashed off like the trains on the old high speed railway, and slipped out of the city.

──Don’t you dare run away.

Shinn narrowed his eyes, and was about to push the throttle forth.

“──Shinn!”

Raiden’s voice echoed, and Shinn recovered.

The voices that had vanished returned. The laments of the “Legion”, the howls of the power packs and actuators of the “Juggernauts”, the voices of the combatants over the Para-RAID, and the usual noise of the battlefield.

The “Legion” units had retreated when the ”Morpho” fired its cannon, and at this moment, they had returned. He could hear the “Legion” nearby beginning to approach them.

At this moment, Shinn realized that they were about to be surrounded.

“Now what? Are we giving chase?”

The objective given to Nordlicht Squadron was to destroy the “Morpho” stationed at Kreuzberk. Neither the squad nor the Western army had anticipated nor prepared for a further advance, but,

“…Yeah, we’re giving chase.”

! You serious!?”

Raiden noted in silence, and responding instead was Bernault, the most senior sergeant of the platoon who was assigned to assist the officer. Shinn nodded flatly.

“Our objective is to destroy the “Morpho”, not to suppress this city.”

There was instant silence.

And through the Para-RAID, Shinn could hear Bernault slamming the console.

“Ahh shit! If everyone stays behind, we could have hang on until the main forces arrive! It’s not your hometown you’re fighting for, so why are you Eighty-Sixers fighting so hard!?”

Not at all.

They were neither fighting for this country, nor for that army.

They were simply fighting…for themselves.

“Seriously, I guess it’s dumb luck for me to be assigned to your squad! ──hey you bastards, turn around!”

On Bernault’s command, the ten units of the Wargus braked and turned around. They would be headed towards the looming voices of the ghosts.

“Rejoice, this is the Hell you guys love!”

Even the Eighty-Sixers, who had the battlefield as their homelands, were unable to comprehend this choice of words. Perhaps the Wargus had given up, for they yelled as they gradually vanished behind the skyscrapers.

Bernault’s machine remained behind, his optical sensor turning towards them.

“We’ll hold the line here. Go on ahead! It’s frustrating, but we aren’t as fast as you Eighty-Sixers.”

Like the Eighty-Sixers, they become professional soldiers in their late teens, and had at least ten years the combat experience the Eighty-Sixers had. However, for a long time, they had piloted the heavy ”Vanargand”. The Eighty-Sixers were used to the lighter field dress for combat, pushing beyond the limits, and clearly the Wargus’s instincts and experience could not match up to them.

“We’re not going to hold you brats back—good luck.”